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Bedbugs: Why They're Back

Experts Explain Why Bedbugs Are Everywhere Again -- and What to Do

From the WebMD Archives


Beat BedBugs at Their Own Game

“Movie theaters are dark, so bedbugs are difficult to spot,” Schal says. Don’t skip the blockbuster. Instead, strip down when you arrive home and place all of your clothes in the dryer at high heat for 30 minutes.

“When kids come back from college for Christmas break, take preventive measures if their dorm has been infested,” he says. Put all their belongings in the dryer on high heat or leave them outside in the cold air to chill, as the cold will kill them off too,” he says.

See more ways to get rid of bedbugs.

When Schal checks into a hotel room, the first thing he does is take out his flashlight and check the bed, mattress seams, headboard, coffee table, and dresser. “I look in cracks and crevices to see if there is any sign of bedbugs,” he says.

Here’s another tip: “Remove the headboard if it is not too heavy and look behind it,” he says. “Bedbugs don’t like to be disturbed by housekeeping when they make the bed or change the sheets.” That is why they may congregate behind or under headboards, where they are less likely to be disturbed.

Viviana Temino, MD, says that bedbug bites can look a lot like hives and that she is seeing a lot more of them these days. She is an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

“We have to start to think of bedbugs as possible diagnosis of hives, especially if hives happen at night and in the day you are OK,” she says. Temino was not at the meeting, but reviewed the findings for WebMD.

So, what do you do if you find any bedbugs or bedbug bites?

That is the tricky part, as we are running out of solutions, says Ken Haynes, PhD. He is an entomologist at the University of Kentucky in Louisville. Insecticide resistance is present in 88% of bedbug populations in different parts of the country, he says.

Resistance means that many of the treatments don’t work anymore. Haynes and colleagues are now trying to understand what went wrong and seeing if they can fix it.

Unless and until they get some answers, “we need to have a better scheme for managing insecticide resistance,” he says. Using heat treatment instead of chemicals may play a role.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on December 06, 2011



Ken Haynes, PhD, entomologist, University of Kentucky, Louisville.

Coby Schal, PhD, entomologist, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

Peter J. Hotez, MD, dean, national school of tropical medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

Viviana Temino, MD, assistant professor of allergy and immunology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 60th annual meeting. Philadelphia, Dec. 4-8, 2011.

CDC: “Bed Bugs FAQ.”

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